THE EDITOR: Minister Allyson West's recent remarks in Parliament that San Fernando seems to be becoming more and more of a shanty town gave me cause to reflect. From the early 90s, for almost 15 years, I worked at High Street, San Fernando and I believe this qualifies me to put in my two cents worth.
I believe the minister’s assessment carries much merit when compared to Mayor Regrello who says he does not understand her statement. Back in the 90s, High Street (which is considered the very heart of the southern city), was a vibrant, happening place which attracted a heavy foot traffic, daily. Pedestrian flows into this bustling shopping arena spilled over onto the roadways creating single lane vehicle traffic at times, to almost the top of High Street.
People from all walks of life, demographics notwithstanding, emerged from every conceivable nook and cranny deep into the rural Southland, just to find their way into San Fernando to conduct their business, do some shopping, visit their favourite travel agent or hairstylist/barber, knock back a few beers to loud music, dine or just to hang out with the crowds and enjoy the occasional ‘car-wrecking’ entertainment that never disappoints. It was truly a one-stop shopping paradise!
Fast forward today and sadly, High Street and environs are just a shadow of its former self. Walk or drive down St James Street and you acknowledge the abandoned buildings, empty lots with overgrown bushes, garbage at every turn, foul mouthed vagrants sprawled out on filthy pavements, and shabby buildings still basking from their 90s paint job, with fading ‘Space Available’ signs scrawled behind dirty windows.
Parking is but a mockery as a result of an ill fated city corporation not keeping up pace with the explosion of the vehicular population. Venture into the open streets and you see images of frustration, etched deeply onto the faces of vendors and small business owners alike, desperately struggling to make ends meet.
The San Fernando Wharf, complete with a stalled, bandit-prone Boardwalk Project, remains a ghastly place, which time has effortlessly forgotten. I recall back in 2015, during the days of heavy politicking, our now endearing AG, venturing deep into my residential area with a bevy of heartthrobs in tow, making grandiose promises of a better San Fernando to wide-eyed residents.
Minister West spoke her mind and the incomprehensible mayor spoke with his head buried in the sand. Furthermore, Petrotrin’s demise (South’s family jewels) was the final nail in the proverbial coffin, that is San Fernando. ‘Nuff said!
Barry S. Bissessar, La Romaine